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Upcoming Science Pub Will Explore How Online Reviews Shape Purchasing Decisions

By Dan Campbell

It is that time of the year when many of us are looking at our holiday-season gift purchases. The final Science Pub of the fall semester will look at how we make these selections.

"How Do Online Consumer Reviews Shape What We Buy?" is scheduled for Dec. 3 at Smartmouth Brewing Company at 1309 Raleigh Ave., Norfolk. Networking begins at 6:30 p.m. with the program following at 7. Yuping Liu-Thompkins, professor of marketing, E.V. Williams Faculty Fellow and director of the Loyalty Science Lab, will be the featured researcher.

All of us have consulted online reviews for products, hotels, restaurants, music or movies. Do these anonymous writings really influence our purchases?

Liu-Thompkins was prompted to explore this area due to personal curiosity and the evolution of her research stream on digital marketing.

"I became curious about the influence of these reviews on me and on other consumers," she said. "At that point in time, I had wrapped up some research on online social networks and viral videos. Online review seemed like another important category of user-generated content and consumer-to-consumer interaction to look into."

Liu-Thompkins said one surprising finding was how people are affected by reviews when they are very close to making a purchase decision.

"I had expected that they would be extra careful with reading the reviews and anything hinting at something negative would make them balk at the purchase, but what we found was actually something opposite," she said.

Liu-Thompkins added that online reviews are particularly important in service industries, such as restaurants and lodging.

"What people value with these services are often intangible and are difficult to quantify through a self-promoting product description," she said. "People want to see others' actual experiences with the service."

For more about Liu-Thompkins, you can visit her home page here and her Twitter account at this link.

RSVPs by Dec. 2 are encouraged, but not required. The first 20 to arrive receive a free beverage ticket.

Science Pubs are an opportunity to have a casual conversation with ODU faculty researchers. The spring semester scheduled will be finalized soon. Visit our website to find out more about the Science Pubs initiative.

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